Friday, December 24, 2010

Beacon Advances 20MW Flywheel Energy Storage Install

Beacon Power Corporation
(Nasdaq:BCON), a provider of fast-response energy storage systems and services to support a more stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid, announced that it has made substantial progress toward completion and partial start-up of the 20-megawatt (MW) flywheel frequency regulation plant the Company is building in Stephentown, New York.

More than 10 MW of energy storage capacity (i.e., more than 100 flywheels) has been installed and fully tested by Beacon and is ready for grid connection. Of this, 40 flywheels (or 4 MW) have been running successfully in a "virtual" mode, connected to a temporary on-site generator that simulates the grid connection. In addition, all support systems and ancillary hardware for the plant's eventual matrix of 200 flywheels -- including control software, power electronics, cooling and other equipment -- are in place.

The first 4 MW will be interconnected to the grid when the local utility, NYSEG, completes work on its adjacent electrical substation. The high-voltage wiring to Beacon's plant is in place and all major substation components have been installed. The substation is now in system check-out, testing and commissioning stage.

NYSEG is making an extraordinary effort to finish all remaining tasks as soon as possible, with crews on site seven days a week. Once NYSEG completes its substation, the first 4 MW of energy storage capacity will be connected and begin providing revenue-generating regulation service to the New York grid. Additional megawatts will be brought steadily online, rapidly increasing the plant's frequency regulation capacity and revenue.

"We are very grateful for the excellent support we are receiving from our friends at NYSEG as we finish the last remaining steps before beginning commercial operation," said Bill Capp, Beacon president and CEO. "Once the substation upgrades are complete, our only pacing item to reach full 20 MW capacity utilization will be building and installing the remaining flywheels in Stephentown, as all other associated support systems and infrastructure are already in place."

Flywheel energy storage works by accelerating a cylindrical assembly called a rotor (flywheel) to a very high speed and maintaining the energy in the system as rotational energy. The energy is converted back by slowing down the flywheel. The flywheel system itself is a kinetic, or mechanical battery, spinning at very high speeds to store energy that is instantly available when needed.

At the core of Beacon's flywheel is a carbon-fiber composite rim, supported by a metal hub and shaft and with a motor/generator mounted on the shaft. Together the rim, hub, shaft and motor/generator assembly form the rotor. When charging (or absorbing) energy, the flywheel's motor acts like a load and draws power from the grid to accelerate the rotor to a higher speed. When discharging, the motor is switched into generator mode, and the inertial energy of the rotor drives the generator which, in turn, creates electricity that is then injected back into the grid. Multiple flywheels may be connected together to provide various megawatt-level power capacities. Performance is measured in energy units - kilowatt-hours (kWh) or megawatt-hours (MwH), indicating the amount of power available over a given period of time.

Beacon's Smart Energy 25 flywheel has a high-performance rotor assembly that is sealed in a vacuum chamber and spins between 8,000 and 16,000 rpm. At 16,000 rpm the flywheel can store and deliver 25 kWh of extractable energy. At 16,000 rpm, the surface speed of the rim would be approximately Mach 2 - or about 1500 mph - if it were operated in normal atmosphere. At that speed the rim must be enclosed in a high vacuum to reduce friction and energy losses. To reduce losses even further, the rotor is levitated with a combination of permanent magnets and an electromagnetic bearing.

Beacon Power's grid-scale Smart Energy Matrix is made up of multiple integrated systems of (10) Smart Energy 25 flywheels, interconnected in an array, or matrix, to provide energy storage for certain utility applications. The Smart Energy Matrix can absorb and deliver megawatts of power for minutes, providing highly responsive frequency regulation capabilities for increased grid reliability.

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